|Wilson Blade 98S Racquet Scores|
Wilson's subtle updates in the new Blade 98S have improved the racquet significantly, according to our TW playtesters. The use of a unique graphite and basalt material layup in the frame, along with Parallel Drilling for the grommets, has created a racquet with a softer, more solid feel. The new Blade 98S impressed our testers with its easy power and loads of spin potential. Heavy topspin shots were being launched from both sides of the court throughout the test, and serves were inflicting continuous damage on opposing players. One downside we did find, however, was a lack of precision on flatter shots. When going for heavy topspin we could place the ball where we wanted, but when we tried to flatten our strokes our shots tended to sail on us. Players who don't put a lot of spin on the ball may have control issues with the Blade 98S, but if you're an experienced player who hits with heavy spin and likes more of a player's racquet specs then you should definitely put this on your demo list.
The enormous spin potential of the Blade 98S allowed our playtesters to uncork some heavy topspin groundstrokes, but when they went for flatter shots, they had some trouble with control. Andy really enjoyed this iteration more than the previous one. He explained, "I had a lot of fun hitting groundstrokes with this racquet, and it was certainly an improvement over the previous version. For whatever reason, the first Blade 98S that came out lacked plow through, stability and a solid feel (at least to me), but this update fixed that. It felt almost the same as the Blade 98 (18x20) in that regard, but this Spin Effect version has tons of spin potential that enabled me to uncork some pretty heavy groundstrokes. According to our new PlaySight court technology, I was hitting noticeably more pace and spin. I did find that when I went for a heavy topspin shot the racquet felt amazing, but when flattening out the ball I lost a bit of control. I was loving it on my semi-western grip forehand but found myself trying to add a bit more spin than I would like to my backhand side (which I normally hit much flatter than my forehand). Thus, I was having a blast running around and ripping forehands as often as I could."
Chris preferred his own Six.One 95S because it has a little more control. He critiqued, "This was a very lively racquet from the baseline. Pace and depth came too easily. Although the string pattern is the same as my Six.One 95S, the response felt very different. Control with my racquet is not an issue, but I struggled to keep the ball in with this Blade 98S at first. It felt especially easy to hit my backhand long. I don't generate a lot of topspin with that shot, and that meant the ball would sail with the lively response. I really had to focus on adding some topspin to my backhand to gain control. My slice backhand was better. I was getting impressive spin and decent feel. I felt more connected to where the ball was going and I was able to find better consistency. Needless to say, I was slicing more than ever during this test."
Jason thought the new Blade 98S was pretty comparable to the previous version. He found the most success when he was really going after his shots aggressively. He said, "I felt like this Blade 98S played very similarly to the previous version, but this model felt a bit more control oriented and stable. Unfortunately, it also felt more sluggish. Looking at my PlaySight data, though, the power level seems to be equal to that of the previous Blade 98S, which was a pleasant surprise. It still has really nice access to spin, and I was averaging around 1,200-1,300 RPMs on my forehand. I couldn't be tentative with my swings because if I didn't put a ton of spin on my shots the ball would fly long on me."
After a short adjustment period, Mark felt dialed in from the baseline and actually had some of his best hitting sessions with this racquet, according to the PlaySight data. He said, "From the first swing I noticed the extra heft and comfort the Blade 98S afforded me (compared to my Pure Drive I've been recently hitting), and within five minutes I felt right at home with it. I loved hitting groundstrokes with it! I immediately noticed that my backhand slice worked well, which was a surprise since I usually don't slice well with racquets that have wide open string patterns. PlaySight indicated that I was in the 90 percent success range for both forehands and backhands. I also hit my highest average speed and top speed ever. Needless to say, I was very happy with this racquet from the baseline."
Our playtesters noticed a big improvement in the new Blade 98S over the previous version in terms of stability and feel. Jason offered, "I playtested this side by side with the previous version for almost the entire playtest, and the one thing that really stood out to me in this newer model is the increased stability. I still wish it had more mass to make it even more stable, but there was noticeable improvement."
Chris enjoyed how the lively feel allowed him to easily generate pace and depth on more difficult volleys. He said, "An easy racquet to use at net, the Blade 98S was maneuverable and lively. I had no issues getting behind the ball and punching volleys deep. Cutting under the ball produced some nice, heavy slice that got the ball quickly away from opponents. I was able to easily add a lot of spin to drop volleys to help them die quickly out of reach. When I had to volley from deeper in the court the lively feel helped provide enough power. I usually prefer to wield a much heavier racquet in that situation, but the lively response of this racquet helped me hit those volleys well."
Mark was also having success moving forward. He raved, "I was surprised at how confident I was at net with such a light racquet. I also really enjoyed the soft, plush feel of the frame."
Andy liked the maneuverability and solid feel, but he could have used a little more control at times. He said, "This racquet didn't quite have the same level of precision the 18x20 version did, and thus I struggled to get totally dialed in with it on my volleys. It was more solid and stable than its predecessor, but I found the response off the stringbed to be slightly erratic, forcing me to be careful and not go for my shots with full confidence. On the bright side, maneuverability was great, and it was easy to get the racquet into position during quick exchanges."
Power and spin were easy to come by with the Blade 98S when serving. Jason was able to keep his opponents on their heels during his service games. He said, "For a racquet that weighs around 11 ounces, I was able to get some nice pop off my serves. As to be expected, spin was very good as well -- enough so that my opponents couldn't just tee off on my serves. I liked the whippiness (if that's a word?) of the last model, whereas I did have to get used to the higher swingweight of this one."
Andy was also serving effectively during the playtest. He said, "Serving with this racquet was a lot of fun because of the pace and spin I could generate. It's easy to generate tons of racquet head speed, and then the open string pattern allows me to get tons of rotation on the ball to get it diving down into the service box with lots of action on it. Once again, precision wasn't as good as it was with the 18x20 version, but pace and spin were much easier to come by."
Like the others, Chris enjoyed the easy pace and spin but wished for a little more precision. He offered, "I was able to generate a lot of pace with this racquet. When checking our PlaySight smart court data I realized I had matched the top speed I had achieved with the Babolat Pure Drive Plus, which really surprised me. However, I was not as consistent with this racquet. Like my groundstrokes, I was finding more pace than I typically get from my Six.One 95S, but I had nowhere near the consistency or accuracy. Looking at the specs on paper I wouldn't consider the two racquets to be worlds apart, but reality proved otherwise."
Mark didn't have to try too hard to produce some effective serves with this racquet. He explained, "The weight toward the tip of the frame took some getting used to, but I certainly benefitted from it after a short adjustment period. My serves did not really have any extra gas on them, but I definitely didn't have to exert much effort to be successful."
The Blade 98S was fast through the air and helped our playtesters do some damage with their returns, particularly on the backhand slice. Mark illustrated this by sharing, "This racquet was very stable for me on the return. My backhand slice return was reliable, and with a correctly timed swing I could hit through the ball with some topspin."
Chris also got his chip return dialed in. He offered, "I enjoyed knifing my slice backhand the most on returns. I was able to come over the ball decently, but again my control suffered. On the forehand side it was pretty much business as usual. I was hitting with good spin and finding some solid power. However, I was doing the most damage with my slice backhand. I was able to cut it short, angled and very low or drive the ball deep -- both of which gave my opponents issues."
Jason was frequently hurting his opponents with heavy topspin returns, but he wished for a bit more heft when he was defending. He said, "The spin was great for getting my returns to dip in at the last possible second. I struggled with the bigger hitters because the racquet felt like it got pushed around and lacked some torsional stability on off-center contact."
As the playtest wore on Andy began to return more effectively, but he wanted a little more control from the stringbed to help him redirect some of his opponents' pace. He offered, "Since I like to take the ball early with shorter swings on my returns I would've liked a bit more control so I could place the ball where I wanted more consistently. The opportunity was there to take big cuts and hit some heavy returns, but I typically like to use more of the server's pace and use the control of the racquet to redirect my returns to the corners. The maneuverability and stability were good, and after a short adjustment period I was able to get pretty dialed in, but it doesn't offer quite enough control for me to make it my first choice of racquet for returning serve."
Chris - "I liked the amount of spin I was able to get on my slice backhand. I also liked the response at net."
Jason - "The Blade 98S has a more solid feel and more control than the previous model."
Andy - "It's much improved over the previous version -- more solid and stable. I loved the spin for ripping forehands, which resulted in some of the most fun I've had on court in a while."
Mark - "I liked the soft yet solid feel, the control and the fresh new cosmetic."
Chris - "The Blade 98S was too erratic from the baseline on flatter shots."
Jason - "It was a bit odd that the Blade 98S felt sluggish and lacked weight at the same time."
Andy - "I didn't find quite enough control for volleys and flatter shots. Not much else, though!"
Mark - "Nothing."
Chris - "The Blade 98S felt very different to my Six.One 95S. Although they both feature the same 18x16 string pattern, that pattern responds very differently in each racquet. I found slightly more power here than with the previous version, and I believe that led to the trouble I had controlling depth on my flatter shots."
Jason - "There were very minute changes from the previous version to this model. This newer Blade 98S feels more solid, stable and control-oriented, but also slightly more sluggish."
Andy - "The Blade 98S is much, MUCH improved over the previous version, with a more solid feel and more heft that makes it feel more like a player's frame than the last one. This may be my favorite Spin Effect racquet to date. Other comparable racquets would be the Yonex EZONE Ai 98 and Head Graphene Prestige Pro. The Blade 98S has a little less control but way more spin potential. This was a very fun playtest!"
Mark - "The Blade 98S isn't far off the feel and performance of its predecessor. I suppose I have to also include the Wilson Six.One 95S, Prince Tour Pro ESP 100, Prince Tour Pro 98, and Yonex EZONE Ai 100 in the list of racquets that will offer comparable performance."
(Scores are determined by averaging individual play test scores)
Chris: 4.5 all-court player currently using the Wilson Six.One 95 S. Chris uses a semi-western forehand grip, has a fast swing style and hits a one-handed backhand.
Jason: 4.0 baseliner with a semi-western forehand and two handed backhand. Currently using a Yonex EZONE Ai 100
Mark: 5.0 lefty all-court player with a one-handed backhand. He currently plays with the Wilson Steam 99S.
Andy: Open level all court player with a semi-western forehand grip and a two handed backhand. Andy currently using a Yonex EZONE Ai 98.
Review date: December 2014. If you found this review interesting or have further questions or comments please contact us.
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